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Arizona Gov. Hobbs vetoes 15 bills on issues including protesters blocking roadways and eligibility for food stamps

Gov. Katie Hobbs signs a petition Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 to put a measure on the 2024 ballot that, if approved by voters, would insert the right to abortion into the Arizona Constitution.
Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer.
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Arizonans won't be going to jail for intentionally blocking a stretch of freeway.
Gov. Katie Hobbs on Tuesday vetoed a proposal by Sen. John Kavanagh which would have made it a felony for protesters to block a highway, bridge or tunnel. And it classified the offense as a Class 6 felony which carries a presumptive sentence of a year in state prison.
In her veto message, the governor did not address the concerns of the Fountain Hills Republican that protesters were interfering with the rights of others. Instead, she said that what Kavanagh proposed went too far.
"Recognizing the sanctity of constitutionally protected rights, it is critical that we approach these matters with precision to avoid infringing on Arizonans' freedoms,'' Hobbs wrote.
Her rejection of SB 1073 was just one of 15 bills on which the governor wielded her veto stamp on Tuesday. Other issues range from eligibility for food stamps and expanding the size of some boards of supervisors to what instruction has to be offered in public schools about "victims of communism.''
And she even managed to take a not-so-subtle slap at former President Trump in the last veto.
That brings her veto tally so far this year to 18.
By the same time last year she had rejected 20 measure approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. And for the entire session the tally was 143.
Kavanagh said the idea came to him late last year while he was watching a news report on television on a group of protesters who had blocked the westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge going into San Francisco for about four hours by laying down. They were demanding a cease fire in Gaza.
Why they were doing it, Kavanagh said, is irrelevant.
"No restrooms, a couple of vehicles had organs that were supposed to be going to a place for a transplant,'' he said.
There already is a general statute that makes it illegal to block traffic in a way that creates an "inconvenience or hazard.'' That is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to four months in the county jail and a $750 fine.
But Kavanagh said that is insufficient.
"It seems to me that if a small group of people literally steal four hours of thousands of people lives for their protest, it should be more than a little misdemeanor,'' he said.
His measure had some limits, and not just that it would not apply to city streets unless that road was leading into an airport. The action would have had to block at least 25 people from where they are going.
Hobbs also rejected two measures dealing with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps.
HB 2502, sponsored by House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci, sought to require any able-bodied recipient younger than 60 who is not employed to participate in work training programs. The Lake Havasu Republican said these are offered by the Department of Economic Security but that participation is voluntary.
Legislative budget analysts reported that only about 9,400 individuals participate in the program. They estimated that the legislation could increase that by more than 130,000, though they said the figure could be lower as federal law exempts those who have "good cause'' like illness, household emergency, lack of transportation or other circumstances beyond the person's control.''
Biasiucci said mandatory training would help people get the skills they need so they no longer needed the benefit.
"I have significant concerns about how this legislation will affect the economic well-being of Arizonans participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,'' the governor wrote in her veto message. She provided no specifics.
Hobbs also said she feared that what was in the measure would undermine existing efforts to connect SNAP participants with "high-quality training and job support services.''
The governor also rejected HB 2503, also sponsored by Biasiucci.
It would have blocked the state Department of Economic Security from seeking, applying for or accepting any waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents to participate in work programs unless required by federal law or authorized by the Legislature. Waivers are allowed under federal law under certain circumstances, like an insufficient number of jobs to provide employment.
Hobbs said she found the language too restrictive in times of "economic challenges.''
"This legislation would inhibit our state's ability to respond in these times to support Arizona families, retailers, and farmers, and would instead place additional strain on food banks,'' she said.
On a related note, Hobbs rejected HB 2375, a proposal by Rep. Lupe Diaz, R-Benson, to bar local governments from adopting or enforcing any sort of "guaranteed income program.''
Several cities across the country have approved pilot programs, including Phoenix which used COVID funds in 2022 to provide $1,000 a month to 1,000 low-income families for a year.
The governor said the restrictions in the bill were overly broad and `could threaten programs Arizonans rely on such as housing, food, and emergency need programs if administrated at the local level.''
She also vetoed a measure by Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, that would have given Cochise County the opportunity to ask voters if they want to expand the board of supervisors from three to five.
Current law requires that question to go to the ballot once a county hits 150,000. HB 2031 would have made that optional at 125,000 -- just a hair less than the current Cochise population.
Griffin told lawmakers that a three-member board creates problems, what with open meeting laws that prevent two of them -- a majority -- from talking to each other.
Hobbs provided a four-word response.
"The legislation is unnecessary,'' she wrote.
The governor also rebuffed a bid by House Speaker Ben Toma to require require that any American government course required for high school graduation include at least 45 minutes of instruction about the history of communist regimes around the world. And his HB 2629 included a suggested list ranging from Joseph Stalin and the Soviet system and Mao Zedong and the cultural revolution in Chine to Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution right up to Nicholas Maduro, the current president of Venezuela and the Chavismo moment named after former president Hugh Chavez.
Hobbs said she appreciates the efforts to ensure students understand the negative impact of communist and authoritarian regimes have had, "especially at a time when we see many politicians in our own country warming up to dangerous leaders such as Vladimir Putin.''
That is a reference to comments that former President Trump has made over the years seeming to praise the Russian president and even the fact that Trump, unhappy with NATO, publicly said he would encourage Russia to do "whatever the hell they want'' to any member that doesn't meet spending guidelines.
But the governor said what was in Toma's bill was "too prescriptive'' in dictating educational requirements. What would be more appropriate, she said, is something like a 2022 measure by Rep. Quang Nguyen, R-Prescott Valley, which requires the state Bard of Education to include a comprehensive discussion of political ideologies, like communism and totalitarianism, thatconflict with principles of freedom and democracy.
Hobbs did agree to act on her own to advance one provision of the vetoed bill: She will proclaim this Nov. 7 as Victims of Communism Day.
Other measures rejected by Hobbs include:
- Allowing the public to inspect and comment on the modeling used by the Department of Water Resources to determine if there is sufficient groundwater to allow development;
- Barring the state or local governments from requiring a water measuring devices for a well located in certain specified areas;
- Creating a new special license plate, this one that would help benefit Brigham Young University.
On X and Threads: @azcapmedia